In what could be attributed to some fitting timing, Doc Rivers had his weekly appearance on WEEI this morning and took some hard hitting questions on his team’s pathetic performance yesterday evening. A few key excerpts:
On the team’s lack of fight last night:
“I thought they gave in as the game went on. Yeah, there’s no doubt, you can call it ‘quit’ or whatever,” Rivers said. “But I don’t think they mailed it in when they showed up. If you look at the first eight minutes of that game, I thought we competed. We missed every shot, every wide-open shot. …
When things went bad, I didn’t think we had a lot of resolve to fight it last night, and that was obvious, But when you watch the beginning of the game, the ball was moving. We missed wide-open shot after wide-open shot after wide-open shot. … What bothered me about it was as we missed shots we hung our heads more and more.” Added Rivers: “On the [defensive] end is where the breakdowns came. As the game got worse, our fight got less, and that bothers me.”
On the boos from the home crowd:
“Yeah, that was pretty good, and we deserved it,” he said. “Listen, I’m not a fan of booing anything. … But that was frustrating for the fans as well. I always think you support your team good or bad, but last night was so bad — and it’s rare where I’d say this — I had no problem with it at all.”
Any explanation for the team’s home woes?
“No, there isn’t. That’s a tough one to explain. We have played at times — we’ve been more comfortable on the road, which is unusual. … We just haven’t played well, bottom line.”
On how to get the team and players back on track:
Rivers said the team is focused on getting Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett healthy and back into the flow of things before the playoffs roll around. “We have 19 games to get them right. That’s the bottom line,” he said.
“Our best players have to be great for us to be a great team. And we have to figure out over these next  games whatever the best way is to get them there. If that means sitting them down for two weeks, we’ll do that. If that means playing them even though they may not play well, and maybe struggle through it, but get them more rhythm, then we’re going to do that. … That’s the key to our season. We have to get them right.”
A few thoughts about Doc’s final comments and any potential “changes” he might be referring to, after the jump
For better or worse, mostly for better, Doc had stood firm to his formula in the past 3 years in how he manages this team. He has kept to the same starting lineup (when healthy) and substitution patterns for the most part, always playing his starters together as much, if not more than any other team in the league the past few seasons.
In the past, this formula has worked, but this season due to injuries, lack of focus, regression in skill, whatever you want to call it, things have been thrown out of whack. This particular team, though having largely the same cast of characters, is a different animal.
Noting this, I have to admit it’s encouraging to see Doc is talking about shaking things up here. The only thing consistent about this team is how inconsistent they have been on both ends of the floor in the past three months. So what kind of changes could we see then?
Well, first Doc mentioned sitting someone down for a couple weeks as a possibility. My best guess is that he is referring to Paul Pierce here. The Truth has been belabored by multiple injuries the past few months and has been flat out ineffective since his return, averaging just 13.6 points and shooting just 38.6 percent from the field in his last 10 contests, down from 18 points and 47 percent shooting from before the All Star Break.
Perhaps even worse has been his defense which has been lacking on both perimeter and in cutting off dribble penetration. The lateral movement and effort has clearly not been there recently with Number 34. Other parts of his game has struggled as well with The Truth averaging just 2.3 boards per game in month of March, which is nearly half his season average.
I was speaking with Mike Gorman over this weekend at MIT and he pointed out to me how Pierce still did not look healthy to him. His numbers seem to back up that sentiment. One thing that is certain about Paul is that he is a gamer and he appears to be frustrated right now with his own play and lack of rhythm.
The fact he was pressing for large portions of that Milwaukee game goes to mind as a good example of him trying to do it all without potentially being all the way back at full strength yet. His body is not letting him do the things he wants to offensively and it sure seems like he’s been hurting this team just as much defensively lately.
So what should Doc do? I say rest him for a few games. With Michael Finley in uniform now, you have enough depth at the wing position to not have to overly tax Ray Allen’s minutes with The Truth out. Let the guy recharge his batteries, heal any lingering effects from his knee, foot, thumb injuries as much as he can, to allow him to help this team as much as possible when it matters.
By sitting out now, Paul can rebuild his rhythm in the final 10-15 regular season games, to allow him to peak for the playoffs, rather than gut out the last 20 contests and heading into the playoffs bruised and battered.
The other player who has been consistently terrible lately is Kendrick Perkins. After a terrific first couple months, Perk has reverted to a his 2007 form, showing flashes but ultimately unreliable on the offensive end.
That was good enough for that team to get by, but it is not for this one. He is scoring only 8 points and even more alarmingly just 5 rebounds per contest in his last 10 games. He also has not provided a strong interior defensive presence, again an issue given KG’s regression in that department, athletically speaking.
So what does Doc do with Perk? I’ve read in some places, calls to bench him and start Sheed in his place, which is a bit ironic to me, considering how much everyone was calling for Wallace’s head the first 50 games. Early on this year, Sheed was the only major problem on this team. Starting Wallace right now would you give you a front line of two AARP members, one of which can’t move around well and the other who just doesn’t like to. Not a good formula.
This reality makes me think Doc is referring to Perk as someone who needs to struggle through it, while not playing well, in order to find his rhythm and confidence again. On both ends of the floor, this guy has lost his way right now. It’s not an injury (as far as we know) and it’s not his age or mobility.
Perk has shown he can step up. He needs to rediscover that ability and become a force once again on both ends for this team to get back to the top level of the league. I say play him 30-35 minutes out there. Push him through the lull and give him enough time out there to make good things happen again.
Again, this a lot of speculation here. There are a lot of fingers that deserve to go around in pointing out the team’s latest struggles. Don’t expect wholesale changes by Doc Friday night in Indiana, just some additional rest and run for those who need it most. There’s still time here folks to get things right. The problem is, the margin for error is very, very slim with this team.
“Our best players have to be great for us to be a great team.”
It’s a simple sentiment, but one that rings very true with this squad. The bench can provide a spark all day long, but it’s going to come down to the starting five for The C’s to do anything. This team needs at the very least, 4 of 5 of the players on that unit to be playing well in order to compete. Recently, it’s been 1 or 2. That’s not going to cut it with this squad.